St. Frances of Rome was an Italian noblewoman from the fifteenth century. Frances surprised her wealthy parents when she asked to join the convent at age eleven. Having previously arranged for Frances to marry a wealthy land owner, instead she found herself married two years later at age thirteen. She remained devotedly married for the next forty years.
The early fifteenth century found the city of Rome to be less than the “eternal city” we know today. Rome suffered from internal warfare, natural catastrophe and disease. It was during these difficult periods that Frances and her sister-in-law,Vannozza, reached out to assist many of those affected by disease and the warring strife. Disasters did not escape Frances. Her home was pillaged by Ladislaus of Naples in 1409 and her husband, Lorenzo dei Ponziani, was forced into exile. Historically, these were not uncommon occurrences, however these were, none the less, difficult situations to endure. Upon his return home in 1414, Lorenzo found himself a broken man, yet fortunate to have Frances care for him.
Frances of Rome found fame for her acts of charity and she attracted other women who shared her ideals of self-denial and good works. On August 15, 1425 she founded the Benedictine Oblates of Monte Oliveto. At this time Frances shared her time between family and “community.” In 1433 Pope Eugenius IV approved the community’s Constitution and in 1436, finding herself widowed, Frances officially entered her own community.
Frances of Rome died on March 9, 1440 at the age of fifty-six. She had lived an honorable and good life, especially through her continued acts of charity and love for her townspeople. Though early on she had lost two of her three children, seen her husband lose his pride and dignity and lost all of her personal possessions, Frances never swayed from contributing to the aid of others. Ultimately, Frances was canonized on May 29, 1608. Today her tomb can be viewed at Santa Francesca Romana and her congregation still flourishes through their educational work.